The spirit of friendship

It’s been a funny old Bank Holiday weekend and we’re only partway through it.

Usually, the village would be alive with traffic and people and things going on to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day yesterday. It’s been glorious weather and, while I always stay at home on public holidays, fearing the crowd at the best of times, many friends and neighbours would be heading for the beach.

But not today, although there are reports that visitors have tried coming down this way, including cars full of people from London and other coronavirus city hotspots. Please stay away. We don’t want you here yet.

There’s due to be an announcement tomorrow from Number 10 about this ‘road map’ for the country to navigate its way out of lockdown. But already, people are thinking the light at the end of the tunnel is closer than it probably is. Even I’m a little bit guilty of this, having just run through the final numbers for my one o’clock music slot, The Sound of Music Through The Square Window.

It’s dangerous thinking because we could end up lifting our guard far too early and then going through this all over again, with more deaths and more misery for those on the front line.

Lockdown is not going to be a distant memory for some time, despite garden centres probably being allowed to open next week and outside exercise allowance being upped from once a day to twice daily. I am going to be playing Julie Andrew’s rallying cry ‘the hills are alive…’ for a little while yet. There is no way I am going to let down my social-distancing guard after all these weeks in the house and garden.

I haven’t been anywhere, apart from walking the dogs every morning and one socially-distant visit to the Post Office outreach service in the village hall. I deliberately avoided the potential scrummage for plants that day when a green-fingered resident brought along annuals and perennials she’s been growing for the now-cancelled village fun day in June.

Since we went into lockdown, I think I’ve gone out through the front door three times. I haven’t even used my handbag. My shoulders are rejoicing over the weight that’s been lifted from them.

Yesterday, on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, a small, socially-distanced crowd gathered in the village square to listen to the choice for music from the loudspeakers. This village is a very tight-knit, fun-loving community. The occasion needed to be marked but I didn’t want it to be some flag-waving, jingoist allusion to our current woes. I wanted people to reflect and empathise with the terrific relief our parents and grandparents must have felt knowing that Hitler had been toppled and world peace seemed to be just around the corner.

So instead of daily The Sound of Music theme tune as our call to arms, we had Richard Dimbleby’s commentary as Winston Churchill gave a speech to the crowds in London. It was incredibly poignant, giving us a palpable glimpse of what it might have been like on that day in 1945.

There followed Glenn Miller’s In The Mood, Flanagan and Allen’s Run Rabbit Run and then the inevitable rendition of We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn.

In our village square, there was a party atmosphere as people danced far apart and popped open the sparkling wine. It was strange, weird and odd but reassuringly village-ey, without descending into jingoism. For me, it felt like the spirit of friendship.

Later, in front gardens and on the sides of their streets, folk had picnics within shouting and waving distance of their neighbours. There was a sense of belonging and ‘meeting’ new people rather than the usual cliques, which would probably have happened had a formal event been able to be organised.

And we will meet again. I’m looking forward to the final songs I’ve got planned for the last day of lockdown and then the people’s playlist at the celebration party when this is all over.

In the meantime, we’ll just hunker down and get on with life as best we can. It’s all we can do.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

By Maddie Grigg

Maddie Grigg is the pen name of former local newspaper editor Margery Hookings. Expect reflections on rural life, community, landscape, underdogs, heritage and folklore. And fun.

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